|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Marvelous||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Xseed Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
January 13, 2009 - When the original Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon debuted in 2007, many praised it for expanding upon the Harvest Moon formula and adding RPG-style battle elements. However, last year's follow up didn't really expand upon this core idea. Now the Rune Factory series is transitioning from handheld systems to the Wii, which will hopefully bring several improvements.
The story in Frontier looks like it will continue the plot from the original Rune Factory, with characters Raguna, Mist, and Rosetta returning for this title. It is unknown whether some characters from Rune Factory 2 will be showing up, but so far it looks like Frontier will be a direct sequel to the original and will probably have no connection to the handheld follow-up. The setting this time around will be Tranruptia, which is a brand new location for the series.
Although Tranruptia seems like a fairly peaceful place at first, it actually has a terrible secret. There is a floating whale-shaped island above this land, which is maintained by Rune spirits on the mainland. However, these Rune spirits have been disappearing recently, which has made the floating island unstable. Unless something is done to slow the disappearance of the runes, the whale-shaped island will lose all of its magical power and crash into the mainland, which would kill all of the innocent citizens below. Although Rune Factory: Frontier will utilize the same "farm to save the world" theme that has been a staple in the Harvest Moon series for years, it will be very interesting to see the characters from the first game return to tackle this new situation.
Another much-improved aspect of Rune Factory: Frontier will be the A.I. While character interaction was fairly good in the handheld titles, it was somewhat inhibited by persistent "canned" responses that you got from characters, which were especially annoying from characters you were trying to woo. However, Frontier will have a much deeper character interaction system which will give you more dialogue variety. Instead of the usual canned responses, characters will react to your current and previous actions in-game, which will make the social system that is so important in the Rune Factory series more believable.
As for the farming and battle aspects of the game, Frontier looks to be sticking firmly to the foundations set by its handheld predecessors. The farming will be grid-based, and you will have to farm different crops depending on the season. You will have certain farming "abilities" that can be leveled up, and you will eventually be able to employ livestock to work on your farm. You will also need to go on quests and will have to level up different battle abilities as well as weaponry. However, instead of having different dungeon areas, all of the different battle stages will be contained in the Whale Island area.
As far as the graphics are concerned, Rune Factory Frontier looks to take several visual cues from it predecessors. In addition to having the same anime-style cutscenes as the handheld, the game will also maintain the rustic look. Characters look more detailed in Frontier than in the handheld versions, and the different settings are much more vibrant. In addition to looking much better than its handheld predecessors, Frontier also looks like one of the better-looking Wii games of this year.
The control scheme in Rune Factory Frontier looks like it will take its cues from last year's Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility and will feature a mix of motion-based and button controls. In addition to farming actions like watering plants and turning over soil, Rune Factory Frontier will also feature social-based motion controls that include shaking hands with townspeople and waving at love interests. However, if you are not inclined to use the motion controls, the game will also support the use of the Wii's Classic Controller.
Although the Rune Factory series has not changed much in its short history, Frontier looks like it will definitely take the series to the next level. With improved graphics, A.I., and a brand-new follow-up story, Frontier looks like it will be the best of the series to date. Look for it exclusively on the Wii this March, just in time for the spring harvest!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor